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Italian women, Egyptians freed
September 29, 2004 12:32 IST
The others include two Iraqis -- including a woman -- who had been abducted along with them, and four Egyptians abducted in a separate incident.
Simona Pari and Simona Torretta, who had been abducted September 7, were greeted by an ecstatic Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi when they landed at Rome's Ciampino Airport last night.
The women, both 29, worked for the aid agency A Bridge to Baghdad. The al-Jazeera television network showed dramatic footage of the handover at dusk on an Iraqi road. They were immediately flown to Rome aboard an Italian air force plane.
Berlusconi and family members of the two women boarded the aircraft moments after it landed.
"It went well. We were treated with a lot of respect," Torretta said. I feel 'good" added a smiling Pari.
"It's like being born again. It's the light after darkness," said Simona's mother Anna Maria Torretta. "I knew Simona would be back. I never stopped hoping."
"I am happy, very happy. I was hopeful — in fact, I was sure. I thank everybody," Pari's father, Luciano, was quoted as saying.
Kuwait's leading daily, Al-rai al-Aam, reported that a $1 million ransom was agreed to, and half of it was paid Monday. But Berlusconi denied that any ransom had been paid, saying that "I believe our behavior has been beyond reproach."
The breakthrough came early yesterday, "after a night that led us to a very difficult choice, with two lines of pursuit which could have been mutually conflicting," he said.
"After so many days, so many nights, so many paths trodden and 16 negotiations launched keeping us all in suspense, the story ends."